Syrie: It’s had a huge impact. Whether I’m writing a novel or a script, I live and breathe by the rules of screenplay story structure, which I believe are absolutely essential to every well-written story.
Whitney: What is screenplay story structure exactly?
Syrie: The structure is very specific, because with a film, you only have a maximum of two hours (120 pages) to tell your entire story. If you don’t get it right, the movie won’t work. It’s a system developed by Syd Field years ago that has become canon in the film world. It’s the way I conceptualize and plot out every novel.
Whitney: Can you share the basics for those of us who aren’t familiar with it?
Syrie: Sure. Screenplay story structure has three acts. In Act One, you open with the normal world, establishing how your main character goes about her (or his) life on a typical day. You have to set up her character arc: she should ideally start with a want or need that’s somehow thwarted, then go on a journey where she faces adversity, grows, changes, and learns something by the end.
By page ten, there has to be an “inciting incident”—something happens, either good or bad (i.e. she loses her job, her boyfriend dumps her, she wins the lottery)—that forces her to change and do something different. A major “plot point” leads into Act Two, and sends the main character in yet another direction. On the journey, she should confront her worst fears and eventually learn to take control of her situation.
Things seem to be going well, but then reality hits. At “plot point two” she faces a major setback, leading to Act Three, where it seems that all is lost. Finally new information appears. Your character learns and grows and races toward the resolution of her journey, which involves climactic action in which she is required to make a personal sacrifice—an important, crisis decision—before she’s rewarded with a happy ending.
Those are the basic precepts for any story with a happy ending (it’s slightly different for a tragedy.) I abide by them with every novel I write—and I’m grateful for the screenwriting background that taught me how important they are.
Whitney: So you followed that structure when you wrote your new novel, Jane Austen’s First Love?
Syrie: Absolutely. Jane goes on the journey I just described. She makes a crisis decision at the end, and she definitely learns, grows, and changes as a result of her relationship with the (truly extraordinary) Edward Taylor. He opens her eyes to many things, helps her to see the world a bit differently—and I think she’s forever changed by the experience.
To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour.
Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie’s unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!